Guide Dog Instructors

Guide dogs are typically trained by highly qualified instructors who are assisted by a number of apprentice instructors. Procedures vary from school to school, but in general, trainers must spend two to three years as a supervised apprentice before they can move up to a master instructor. Different states have different certification processes for guide dog instruction.

Instructors and apprentice instructors are typically college graduates with a good deal of prior experience dealing with both animals and people. Because most guide dog schools are non-profit institutions, instructor pay is relatively low for the education level required; it is still, however, a very difficult job to get. Openings don't come up all that often, and the competition is usually pretty tight. Often, trainers work their way up to apprentice instructor by working with the school on a lower level, such as raising guide dog puppies.

The job is extremely demanding intellectually, emotionally and physically. Instructors work very hard for long hours, and they must constantly deal not only with difficult animals but also with difficult people. It is definitely rewarding work, though. Instructors say they get a great deal of satisfaction from helping a difficult dog master its job, and they're certainly very happy putting together a functioning dog-and-handler team.